NARRATIVE: The prosperity of certain settlements in a province in Eastern China is owed to a project designed and implemented by the current Beijing leader, Xi Jinping.
BACKGROUND: The author of this article, Dan Diaconu, professes to be an economic analyst. Diaconu rose to prominence in 2018, when he claimed the 2015 Colectiv fire was allegedly “masterminded by a global cabal” and that the president of the country was privy to this plan. The incident was in fact aimed to topple the government and install a puppet regime whose goal was to make Romania subservient to the global cabal. At present, Dan Diaconu’s personal blog is a mix of conspiracy theories, fake news and disinformation narratives linked to a variety of current affairs topics (the pandemic, anti-Covid vaccines, climate change, etc.), as well as articles where Russia is considered a model state and its aggression of Ukraine is appreciated. Additionally, Diaconu’s posts cite, praise and tout people close to the Kremlin, such as Putin’s top political theorist Aleksandr Dugin, or the head of the Wagner mercenary outfit, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The introduction of an article about China into a mix of laudatory comments about Russia and its policies signals a new approach, where Russia is no longer described directly at odds with the imperialist West that drains countries across the world of their resources and enslaves their people. This new approach entails the promotion of new success models, other than Russia, outside the circle of “globalist” states, with the goal of showing that prosperity can be attained also if a country develops its own economic model, based on a policy that is completely independent of the policies promoted by various international organizations, particularly those in the development of which the USA and West-European countries have a big say. The same tone can be detected in articles where Dan Diaconu comments on the crisis in Niger, where the country’s democratic government has been ousted in the wake of a coup, where supporters of the new regime brandish Russia’s flags on the city streets. In a previous article, Diaconu praised Russia’s policy in Africa, writing that “Russia doesn’t want to plunder these economies, but rather to make them part of an alliance of resource owners that set fair prices for raw materials”.
Whereas at first glance the article might seem a mere eulogy of China and its leader, its purpose is stated by the author in a previous article. Basically, Diaconu argues, the story about Xi Jinping’s visionary project merely serves as a warning against the threat to European civilization, which risks being swallowed by Asian culture, which is currently undergoing a flourishing period, according to a conspiracy theory about the “mestization” program, the basis of which had been allegedly laid out 100 years ago by the Austrian count Richard Kalergi.
PURPOSE: To provide arguments in favor of the theory according to which the Western social and economic model is ineffective. To demonize the EU, NATO, the UN, the WHO, etc. To fuel anti-Western sentiment.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: Until 2002, Xi Jinping served as the governor of Fuijan province, the birthplace of the founder of TikTok, Zhang Yiming. At the time Xi launched the project, namely in 2005, Zhang Yiming had already graduated college in Tianjin, some 2,000 kilometers from home. Obviously, his schooling could not have been possibly tied to the alleged program spearheaded by Xi Jinping. Besides, right after graduation, Yiming moved to Beijing for his first job, and his alleged ties to the province administered by Xi Jinping are impossible to trace.
In 2002, Xi Jinping took over the governorship of another province – Zhejiang, which he abandoned in 2007, when he was posted in Shanghai.
According to Dan Diaconu’s article, Zhejiang consists of some 50,000 villages. In fact, Zhejiang has a little over 27,500 villages. The term “Project 10,000” could create confusion for the unknowledgeable Internet users, who might mistake it for another project whereby China pledged to cut digital gaps between rural and urban areas in Africa by providing access to digital television to 10,000 rural communities in 25 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa. Xi Jinping himself took it upon himself to see the project through on the sidelines of the 2015 Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Johannesburg.
Subsequently, I searched on Google Image the origin of the pictures used to illustrate the article. I discovered that the two photos were taken in the same place 10 years apart, in 2013 and 2023. The location is indeed in the Zhejiang province, although it is not some idyllic village, but rather the town of Zhuji, which has a population of 1.2 million inhabitants. We can therefore infer that in 2013, the transformation of the said province had not yet occurred.
In fact, in 2003, when Xi Jinping served as party secretary for the Zhejiang province, talks about the modernization of the province resumed, although not as to change its economic profile, but rather to determine an improvement of living standards in rural areas. The discussion was based on a plan dating back to the ‘80s. Construction works took another ten years to effectively kick off, and today Zhejiang is one of China’s richest and most prosperous provinces. The region’s top revenues are generated by the electro-mechanical, textile, chemical and food industries as well as construction materials, which is evidence that the exceptional modernization of the province’s agricultural sector as “envisaged” by Xi Jinping never actually took place.
Xi Jinping’s “genius” strategy fares just as poorly at national level. After two decades of robust economic growth, China’s development has reported a significant slowdown, which translate into an annual economic growth of merely 4%, which is just a few points higher than that of developed countries in the OECD. At this pace, it will take a few dozen years before China’s GDP per capita will catch up with the levels reported in the world’s developed economies. The economic slowdown can easily be perceived also in the high youth unemployment rates, as manufacturing plants tend to preserve their workers without hiring more staff. Indeed, recent years have turned China from a poor country, predominantly rural and agriculture-oriented, into an urban and industrial country, with per capita income levels slightly higher than the global average. However, China’s industrialization and urbanization drive has shown its limits, mirroring the experience of other developed nations. China’s manufacturing sector is losing the competition against regional actors such as Vietnam, and the economic threat to the West is merely “possible” or “highly unlikely” at best.